I understand it’s hard to know how to accommodate or communicate with someone who has little to no vision. I didn’t know about any of this “blind etiquette” stuff until I lost much of my own vision 3 years ago.
I’ve always enjoyed going to social gatherings. For me to enjoy the various get-togethers now, I want to feel as mentally comfortable and physically capable as I possibly can. Here are some helpful hints on what you should never assume about us blind kids based on my own experiences. I don’t expect everyone to relate to these, but I do suspect many will!
1. You shouldn’t assume that we know who you are when you approach us. A hug and a hello is nice (or a little creepy), but, who the hell are you? Please talk to us before you touch us. It is so annoying to me when people assume I want bodily contact from them. I finally wrote a separate blog about this very situation …Check it out: “Talk Before You Touch!”.
2. You shouldn’t assume that we know when you are speaking directly to us in a group situation. If we don’t answer you, it’s not because we’re rude or dislike you. 99% of the time, it’s probably because we have no clue you’re talking to us! As for that other 1% – I’m totally ignoring you in hopes you go away. It’s helpful if you say our name before you direct the conversation our way!
3. You shouldn’t assume that we know who is sitting next to us or across the table from us. We feel so much more comfortable when you let us know who is sitting with us! And I am begging you, please don’t make it a game of “Guess who?”. Honestly, that game gets old real fast!
4. You shouldn’t assume that we know who is in the room when we enter it. First and foremost, don’t drag us around to each and every person like we’re some sort of oddity. That is embarrassing and not needed. We would prefer you to quietly give us the rundown on who’s who, so we can form a mental picture of the room. Standing in a room full of unidentified voices is very uncomfortable.
5. You shouldn’t assume that we want to remain seated OR stand in one place the entire time. We might want to mingle and we can do it safely with your guidance. If it’s not a familiar environment… we often feel “trapped” in a particular area, because we can’t “see” well enough (or perhaps not at all), to move about any party obstacles. Offer to escort us to go outside or inside, to another table, to the bar, or go bust a move on the dance floor!
6. You shouldn’t assume that we need our food cut up. Usually, I am capable of doing this for myself, It’s not pretty, but I will always give it a go. If you see we are struggling, discreetly ask us if we would like your help. Don’t embarrass us in front of others by reaching over and announcing that you are going to cut up our chicken for us. For. the. love. We’re not toddlers!
7. You shouldn’t assume you need to talk louder in order for us to understand you. We can hear you, we just can’t see you. Unless you know the person is also hearing-impaired, there is no need to change the manner in which you speak to us. No need to change the volume or tone. No need to shout or slowly enunciate every. single. word. Yeah, don’t. We will avoid you at all costs.
Please don’t assume anything about a blind person. The one thing you can assume is that we are blind. That’s it. We know what makes us comfortable or uncomfortable. We know what we are able or not able to do. We know what we want or don’t want. Ohhh, wait, I almost forgot number 8!!
8. You shouldn’t, ever, under any circumstances, assume it’s ok to give us the damaged dessert. Don’t try to slip us the mangled macaroons, burnt brownies, crushed cupcakes, or a shitty scoop of sorbet – just because we can’t “see” it. And, if you serve us a skimpy sliver instead of a hearty helping of any dessert… Oh, honey. Don’t even. Or we’re gonna have a bit of a situation right then and there!!